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Marks & Spencer signs call to action over forced labour in Xinjiang, China

By Huw Hughes

Jan. 6, 2021

Marks & Spencer has become one of the first companies to formally sign a call to action over human rights violations in Xinjiang, China, where Uighurs and other minority groups are reportedly being forced into manual labour.

In December, a new report released by the Washington-based Center for Global Policy found that more than half a million Uighurs and other minorities were being forced into picking cotton.

Xinjiang produces around 85 percent of China’s and 20 percent of the world’s cotton, which is used by fashion companies across the globe.

The call to action, supported by groups including the Ethical Trading Initiative, demands businesses ensure their full supply chains - including secondary and tertiary suppliers - are not linked to the human rights abuses in the region.

Marks & Spencer said the signing of the call to action “is in line with the company’s long-term focus on ensuring its supply chains are sustainable and ethical, where workers are treated fairly, and their human rights are respected”.

The retailer said that 100 percent of the cotton used in its fashion ranges is sustainably sourced and that it is already one of the few retailers that does not work with any supplier in or source from Xinjiang.

Richard Price, Marks & Spencer clothing and home managing director, said: “When it comes to sustainable and ethical clothing, we can only achieve real change at scale by working with others, which is why we are proud to be formally supporting the coalition and providing additional assurance to our customers they can purchase from M&S with confidence.”

Jasmine O’Connor, CEO at Anti-Slavery International, said she welcomed “the leadership shown by Marks & Spencer” and encouraged other retailers to do the same.

“The Call to Action sets out a clear path of action for brands to follow in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and we call upon other major brands to follow suit with M&S and commit to the Call to Action urgently,” O’Connor said.

Photo credit: Pixabay